I just finished filling out a survey through SBL regarding the need for a revision of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. I am glad to hear that the publishers of the NRSV are apparently considering a revision. The most recent translation is from 1989 and, while I agree with the translation philosophy and am generally pleased with the translation, it does have its shortcomings. I don’t necessarily want to see a complete overhaul, but some minor revisions are in order. Here are a few that come immediately to mind:
- Some of the language in the NRSV is becoming outdated. The phrase “fullers’ soap” is a good example from Malachi 3:2. Most people don’t refer to launderers as “fullers” any more. In fact, I find it hard to believe that this language was current in 1989.
- I’ve yet to find an adequate translation of 1 Cor 15:44, and the NRSV is no exception. The translation of sōma psychikon as physical body and sōma pneumatikon as spiritual body is very misleading. When most people hear the phrase “spiritual body”, they don’t think of something material, which is exactly what Paul has in mind. These are very difficult phrases to translate without getting bulky.
- I’d really like to see them drop the translation “sacrifice of atonement” for hilastērion in Rom 3:25. The word clearly refers to the propitiation of divine wrath. To paraphrase Leon Morris in his Romans commentary: In Romans 1, we are under the wrath of God. In Romans 5, we have peace with God. The difference is the wrath propitiating work of Christ explained in 3:21-26.
These are just a few weakness in the NRSV that come to mind. I’m sure there are others. Perhaps the process will result in a better NRSV. I’ve been thinking about switching from the NRSV some time in the future. If they produce a good revision, perhaps I won’t have to. Feel free to comment on your own translation concerns.